This Home on the Range series celebrates all kinds of homesteaders, from urban rooftop gardeners to rural ranches and farms, from beekeepers to goat herders, from container gardeners to egg gatherers. Come and visit with us today.
This week’s feature is from Gabriel and Elise New who are the owners of Sweet Potato Hill Farm in beautiful rural Tennessee where they raise grass-fed beef and lamb as well as a variety of organic vegetables. They enjoy exploring innovative methods of working with the land to produce the best food and farm environment possible. Elise blogs about frugal living, life with food allergies, and their farm adventures at http://frugalfarmwife.com.
What led you to become a traditional, urban or suburban homesteader?
When I was a kid my parents decided to learn to live off the land insofar as was possible, so that lifestyle was familiar to me growing up. In my mid teens, circumstances caused my parents to abandon this quest. I remained interested, but not really active, in living off the land. When my husband and I married in ’09, we began earnestly seeking ways to live off the land and learn all we could about taking care of the land.
What do you love about your homestead?
All the grass! Having moved here from central Texas where it’s too dry to efficiently graze cattle, we’re pretty excited about all the grass here in middle Tennessee.
What would you change?
I’d definitely love to have spring water, and/or a creek. We depend on well water, which of course requires pumping. As it is though, we do have access to a very nice creek with a great swimming hole less than a mile away 🙂
What new skills have you learned and how have you applied them?
There have been a lot of things, but most notably for me I think would be Soap making! We make virtually all of our own soap now. I was first motivated to learn soap making because of our goats. Goat milk soap is wonderful stuff!
Gabriel has also become quite the expert grazier. We had no idea just how much there was to learn about grazing. It’s something we could study for the rest of our lives and still not know everything.
This year we expect to be able to pasture our cows through the winter without hay supplement through proper pasture management.
What skills would you like to learn?
There are so many! I’d love to learn to make and age hard cheeses. We’re doing great with the soft varieties such as mozzarella, ricotta, cream cheese, etc. But making our own hard cheese would be da bomb!
What animals or plants do you have?
Beef cows, dairy cows, sheep, chickens, ducks, and rabbits, and soon we hope to have a piglet. Right now we’re in the middle of planting sweet potatoes. Already in the ground we have lettuce, peas, garlic, potatoes, tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, and various kinds of squash.
We’re experimenting with no-till methods of gardening this year as the typical clean tillage method is not only unnatural (you gardeners have probably noticed how the earth fights to cover itself 🙂 ), it also promotes pest problems. This year our garden involves rows of plants set in compost and covered with mulch, with strips of poly-culture in between as a habitat for the good bugs which can’t easily access the middle of a cleanly tilled garden space the way pest bugs can.
This method also works to build the quality of the land even while benefiting from it.
What makes you happy with your life as a homesteader?
Knowing that we can provide our kids with a healthy environment for one, and of course healthy food. There’s tremendous freedom in being able to produce your own food.
Not being tied down to a 9-5 job is great too of course. 😉
Something that Gabriel and I also love about our life as homesteaders is that what we’re doing is not just ecologically sustainable, it is ecologically restorative.
Properly rotating cattle ( and sheep!), proper management of poultry, proper gardening methods. All these things work to increase the fertility of the land, not just sustain it. It’s great knowing that we’ll be leaving this place better than we found it. We definitely want to do our part to leave the world a better place for our children.
Here are the photos!
That grass looks full of nutrients!
A flerd. Did you know that? I didn’t!
I think baby wants to help!
And mommy is close by.
I’m sure it is starting to grow by now!
Thank you Elise! What a beautiful farm you have! I love the fact that you pay so much attention to the quality of the soil. You seem to know a lot about this! Very admirable!
What is a Real Food Homesteader?
A Real Food Homesteader is someone who cares about the earth, the soil and the animals that give us food. You don’t have to have acres of prairie land to be a homesteader. You can be an urban or suburban homesteader with a tiny plot of land, a rooftop garden in a city, or a community garden. You could also be a more traditional homesteader who is concerned about organic, sustainable methods of farming or gardening, who supports pasture raised animals.
Real Food Homesteaders don’t use genetically modified seeds. They don’t use poisons on the plants and soil. They don’t feed poisoned grains to their animals.
They cook traditionally with raw dairy from grassfed animals and eggs from chickens on pasture. They shun processed vegetable oils like margarine and other processed foods. They try to buy as little packaged food as possible — growing and preserving their own instead.
Are you a person like this? Do you have an urban, suburban or rural homestead? Please share it with us.
Send your answers to Jill at Real Food Forager dot com and 5 – 6 of your best photos sized 450 – 550 with captions.
The next could be yours!